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The Stonecutter

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The Stonecutter

Published 1960

The late Gerald McDermott made this, his first commercial film at the age of 19, an extremely complex animation short featuring approximately 2000 animation cels presented in six minutes. The production was handled by an uncredited Harrison Engle, later noted as a documentary filmmaker. Influenced by Klee and Matisse, McDermott used silk-screen as well as traditional painting techniques in crafting ethnographic folk tale animation shorts. With films that are startling in intensity, and majestic in execution, McDermott is clearly one of the outstanding film animators of his generation, despite having an output consisting solely of only five films, all of which are under 12 minutes in length. After retiring from film animation at the age of 32, McDermott began producing animated children’s books, eventually becoming one of the world’s best-known authors of books for young readers, winning numerous awards in the process. More about McDermott at

Run time 6 minutes
Producer Gerald McDermott
Sponsor Jordy Whitmer
Audio/Visual sound, color


Reviewer: baisers voles - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 15, 2009
Subject: beautiful design
And the story well told. the moral is to be happy with what you have.. after all the stonecutter is more powerful than the mountain.
Reviewer: mlwvandenberg - favoritefavoritefavorite - February 12, 2009
Subject: cruell
Reminds me of the differences between Asian and European cultures. In this folktale the character wants power, only power and when he has power the only pleasure he get's from it is causing destruction. The cruel nature of the story.

Too think about it much deeper, you will see that this folk story has no moral sense from the point of view of an European, it is true; the moral of the story is that people with the qualities of a laborour should not become rulers or powerfull men, not because they will use there powers badly but because it touches wrongly upon there mental peace; the folktale teaches selfishness, something that would be unnatural to Europeans, who are thought to be responsible for there own action, or not to hurt anyone. The moral of the story is not that he does not find satisfaction because he lives a destructive life what ever form it might take, but that we should escape from destructive habits, before they destroy use so we can go on destroying other people for our own pleasure.

In an European folktale there is the similare story of faust, faust is a learned man who has spend his youth, trying to have knowledge of the natural world after betraying science for magic he is lured by the devil into making a pact with him, the devil will give him youth and his devilish power are at his command; the devil will help him learn everything and experience everything he wants to experience, in exchange for his soul if faust where ever to become bored of such an existence.

- skipping the moral, mystical and romantic parts -

Love unites faustus and elizabeth, the loved ones see eachother as an reflection of eternity and god; and the devil loses power over them being sickened and repulsed away by the idea of love. This is so different from the ying-yang, destroy and be destroyed asiatic story. In the European tale the end is found in unity, the natural world ends up becoming a reflection of a pure soul, it is not about returning wat is given to you, but playing with what is already present and creating unity where there is only thought.

This is why Europeans are so creative and inventive. We truly believe in unity, asians do not.
Reviewer: Khalbrae - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 22, 2008
Subject: Quite enlightening
It shows that every person has their place. While the Prince may not fear the paesant, it is the paesant that overcomes the forces the Prince can do nothing against.

What is the copyright status of this film anyway?
Reviewer: pheret - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 3, 2008
Subject: the stonecutter
at first a bit confusing but lovely and nice, thought provoking ending.
Reviewer: Wilford B. Wolf - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 3, 2007
Subject: Tasaku The Stonecutter
An animated film of the Japanese folk tale, "The Stonecutter". The core of the story is how a stonecutter is content in his work, until he wishes to become ever grander things-- a prince, the sun, clouds, a mountain-- with the help of a mountain spirit. But in the end, it is the stonecutter that causes the mountain to tremble. The moral being is to be happy with your place in life.

The animation does look a bit dated now, having that 1960s blocky abstract look that was common for children's books. However, the forms are still recognizable, and the bright primary colors are inviting to children as well as adults. In addition, it is a fine way of introducing a folk tale to a class, making this film still useful today.
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